Suspect nabbed in missing Malaysian pastor case

Local caught in northern state last week; pastor's family says delay in announcing arrest 'unusual'

Malaysian police said yesterday that they have picked up a suspect linked to the abduction of Pastor Raymond Koh and hit back at suggestions that the authorities have been sitting on a case that has raised public concern over street kidnappings.

Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said the arrest of the suspect was made last week at a northern state but declined to give further details.

Checks by The Straits Times found that the suspect was picked up in Perak, but the police are keeping mum on the details for fear of jeopardising the investigation.

"A local was detained to facilitate the investigation into Pastor Koh's abduction and I would like to stress here that there is no truth to the claims that the case is not being investigated. Every angle of the case is being focused," Inspector General of Police Khalid told reporters yesterday.

Mr Koh, 62, was abducted in broad daylight on Feb 13, as he was driving in Petaling Jaya.

Three black sport utility vehicles blocked his car, and eight masked men in black alighted and removed Mr Koh and his vehicle from the scene, according to footage captured on closed-circuit TV cameras installed in front of a nearby house.

His family has taken the matter to the United Nations working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances, claiming the police had been "diverting" the focus of investigations to Mr Koh's alleged attempts to convert Muslim youth to Christianity.

Reacting to the claim, Tan Sri Khalid said: "We have to be fair since there are reports against him. We are determining whether his abduction was in retaliation to the claims (of trying to convert Muslims)."

Responding to media queries, a spokesman for the Koh family said in a statement: "We are following closely these public statements by the police about this arrest that they claim they made last week. We reserve comments until there is more substantial information on this."

The statement added: "It is unusual that there was no announcement of this at the time of the suspect's arrest last week."

The police in March arrested a 32-year old man for asking for a ransom to release Mr Koh. But it was not clear if the man was involved in the kidnapping.

Mr Khalid yesterday addressed an accusation by political activists that the authorities are involved in cases of several missing people. These activists are facing a police probe.

"This is a serious allegation and we will not allow them to take this opportunity to make baseless accusations. If you have evidence, bring it to us and we will take action. Don't try to 'spin' the situation by making it seem as though the authorities are involved," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2017, with the headline 'Suspect nabbed in missing Malaysian pastor case'. Print Edition | Subscribe